Demi-fine jewellery: less expensive but no less chic
Not too high, not too low – a new wave of super-chic, accessibly priced jewellers are getting it juuust right. Annabel Davidson has the names you need to know
HIGH JEWELLERY, FINE jewellery, costume jewellery and fashion jewellery – they’re the categories we’re all used to, right? As a refresher: ‘high’ counts as rare, one-of-a-kind pieces made with the finest craftsmanship and the most precious of materials – the sort of things you daren’t even glance at on Bond Street. ‘Fine’ is 18ct gold, precious and semi-precious stones, costing up into the tens of thousands. Then there’s ‘costume’: it’s flamboyant, it’s fantastical, but it uses clever alternatives to its precious counterparts ( glass, crystal, brass, etc). And finally, ‘fashion’: the quick-fix jewellery on the high street.
Only now, there’s a new kid in town, and it’s one to take seriously – but not too seriously.
Enter ‘demi-fine’, an emerging jewellery category that hits that sweet spot between fine and costume. How? Well, it all boils down to the price of gold. Gold is expensive, and 18ct gold – the preferred mix of pure gold and other metals used in all fine and high jewellery – is more so than lower carat weights (usually 14ct, 10ct, or 9ct). So when a jeweller uses one of the latter golds in a piece, it’s going to be less expensive for them to produce, and less expensive for us to buy.
But – and this is the important bit – demi-fine jewellery still has intrinsic value, incorporating
precious and semi-precious gems alike, or simply by virtue of being made from a precious metal, not just coated in it (unlike vermeil or gold-plated pieces).
‘While I love the warmth of 18ct gold, 14ct gold is my favourite to design with,’ says Wing Yau, the designer behind New York demi-jewellery brand WWAKE. ‘It’s subtle, yet still holds true to the luxury of fine jewellery. Our customers are drawn to what we consider “understated statements”: little bits of luxury that can be worn every day, and then passed down for generations. Subtle design is key to making the jewellery feel personal, rather than ostentatious – these women are buying the jewellery to reward themselves, after all, not to impress anyone else.’
When used in the diminutive pieces that WWAKE creates, 14ct gold is hard to differentiate from 18ct, although in general the lesser the carat weight, the less ‘gold’ the metal looks. But at 14ct, it’s a very small difference, which works for Yau.
And she’s not the only one going down this track. A raft of independent designers are embracing the medium, creating collections that are far more affordable than traditional fine jewellery. Here are the 10 demi-fine names to know now...
Rachel Loren, Satya Stewart and Annah Stewart-Zafrani are the trio behind LA brand Loren Stewart, and started off upcycling vintage jewellery for themselves and friends. Their superfine gold chain is adorable – especially when turned into a choker with a tiny diamond suspended at its heart. net-a-porter.com
Her designs are as sweet and discreet as the Copenhagenbased designer herself. Minimal, modern and quietly luxurious, Brahe’s single earrings can hold an entire outfit together. A new take on her Petite Elipse design sees a generous swoop of gold looping the earlobe, top-andtailed with two gleaming Akoya pearls. doverstreetmarket.com Another Dane, Maria Black’s simple pieces have just a little bit of edge. Her new Diamond Cut collection sees 14ct gold faceted to sparkle like diamonds, with a scattering of tiny stones. Our pick is the single Colette earring in rose gold, which makes a graceful statement by swooping up the lobe. libertylondon.com
This Torontonian sprinkles a little fairy dust on all her work – the hand-carved designs and slightly askew-set stones make her delicate pieces seem ethereal and otherworldly. Her stacking rings subtly shimmer with
Left Necklace and rings, from a selection, WWAKE (couverture andthegarbstore. co.uk). This page
1. Diamond-cut Viva ring, £385, Maria Black (liberty london.com).
2. Teardrop amethyst earring, £400 each, Jacquie Aiche ( jacquieaiche.com).
3. Small Prism necklace, £460, Sarah & Sebastian (sarahand sebastian.com).
4. Jasmine earrings, from £100, Laurie Fleming (lauriefleming jewellery.com).
5. Lulu 14ct-gold, pearl and diamond earring, £720, Sophie Bille Brahe (net-a-porter.com) 1 2 3